Many introverts naturally see the world in terms of story and symbol.
There’s something so very introverted about the act of writing. And it tends to be something that many of us “quiet ones” are drawn to — even from a young age.
“Writing is something you do alone,” John Green, author of the bestselling young adult book, The Fault in Our Stars, once said. “It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”
Although not all introverts are drawn to writing, many of them are, either professionally or casually. Let’s explore why (and what makes them so good at it).
Why Introverts Are Drawn to Writing
To be clear, not all writers are introverts. Literary greats such as Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Anaïs Nin, and Mark Twain are thought to have been extroverts.
But many writers do self-identify as introverts, such as J.K. Rowling and John Green. Other famous introverted writers are thought to include Agatha Christie, Charlotte Brontë, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, Homer, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, George R.R. Martin, Ayn Rand, and… the list goes on and on.
Yes, anyone can write. But it takes a certain type of person to create worlds in their head, work in complete isolation for hours on end, and strive to get every word just right.
If you’re an introvert who loves writing, it’s probably in part because you get to work alone. There are no staff meetings, no small talk, no group brainstorming sessions, and no social burnout when you’re writing. It’s just you, your notebook (or laptop), and whatever your inner world devises.
It doesn’t get more introverted than that.
Another reason many introverts are drawn to writing has to do with the way we see the world.
“I think many introverts naturally see the world in terms of story and symbol,” Lauren Sapala, a writing coach for introverts, told me. “And when we use writing as a tool, we’re able to connect the dots and lay out the patterns we see for others.”
In other words, writing allows introverts to share their insights with others — something we rarely get to do in casual conversation.
Finally, our love of writing may have to do with the way our brains are wired.
According to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney in The Introvert Advantage, introverts may rely more on long-term memory than short-term memory, whereas extroverts might do the opposite. This can make it harder for introverts to put their thoughts into words on the spot, because pulling information out of long-term memory is essentially more difficult. Extroverts have words on the top of their tongue because using short-term memory is easier.
Writing, however, uses different pathways in the brain, according to Laney — and those pathways seem to flow more fluently for introverts.
Why Introverts Make Great Writers
Here are three reasons many introverts make great writers:
1. Good writing is good thinking. And who thinks more than introverts?
To be fair, not all introverts are “lost in their head,” as the stereotype suggests. But it’s true that many introverts do a lot of thinking and reflecting.
For example, one study found that introverts reacted more strongly than extroverts to the sensory stimuli coming their way. They also expended more mental effort by analyzing that information more deeply and carefully.
Extroverts, on the other hand, were better at monitoring events around them and noticing changes in their surroundings.
Both of these tendencies can be strengths in different situations. But it’s no surprise that introverts get a boost in the writing department. After all, you have to chew on something quite a bit before you can extract an insight or create something new.
2. We’re comfortable with solitude.
It not only takes solitude to write the book, but also to create the book inside your head. “While extroverts might naturally reach for other people or external activities to relieve boredom,” Sapala said, “introverts more often than not seek a physical refuge where they can be alone and spend time inside their own heads.”
3. We’re keen observers of people, places, and details.
You can usually tell if someone is an introvert by looking at how they react around a crowd. If they hang back, just watching, or if they let others do most of the talking, they’re probably an introvert.
All that listening and observing comes in handy when we write. An overheard conversation becomes the basis of a character in our book. The details we notice about a place form the backbone of our story’s setting. An observation raises a question in our mind, causing us to dive deep into research to find the answer.
Join the introvert revolution. One email, every Friday. The best introvert articles. Subscribe here.
How to Write More
Although many introverts love writing, they can also find it extremely difficult to get their ideas out of their head and onto paper. But there’s a simple solution, Sapala said.
“This might sound basic, but just start,” she said. “Just write something. Anything.”
A lot of introverts get hung up on trying to make their work perfect. They might fail to make much progress because they keep changing the direction of their story or rewriting sentences until they’re just right.
To combat perfectionism, remind yourself that what you’re writing at this very moment doesn’t have to be the final product. It doesn’t even have to be shown to anyone else (unless you want to).
“If it helps, imagine that you’re going to put your writing in a locked box,” Sapala said.
And given the introvert’s penchant for deep thinking, it’s only natural for them to strategize and plan. But this can actually hurt them when they’re writing, Sapala said. She calls it “futurizing,” which is when someone leaps ahead and tries to plan too much what something will or should look like.
Of course, if making an outline or planning certain elements of your story helps you, then go for it. But sometimes, our planning can inadvertently become a way to procrastinate. We feel like we’re making progress, even if we actually aren’t.
Instead, be open to possible unexpected directions your writing may take — and know that it’s okay if something doesn’t turn out quite the way you envisioned it. For many writers, it’s very normal to end up with a final product that doesn’t match their initial idea. This might actually be a good thing, because it means your ideas are evolving.
“Bring yourself back to the present and start with one sentence, and then another, and then another,” Sapala said. “Just do what you can right now.